Bryce Avary uplifts listeners with his band’s newest release
It takes a lot to put an album together. From writing lyrics to orchestrating all the music to producing songs in full, it’s undoubtedly a big task for anyone involved. Now imagine that you — and you alone — are in charge of all three of these jobs. For Bryce Avary, it’s just another day at the office.
Avary is the brains and the brawn behind The Rocket Summer, a piano- and guitar-driven pop-rock solo project that’s been flying under the radar for the past couple of years. After releasing three full-length albums and four EPs, The Rocket Summer unveils its latest release, Of Men and Angels, this Tuesday.
The album’s opening track, “Roses,” wastes no time easing you into the musical and lyrical themes of the remaining songs. Starting off energetically and singing lyrics like “And I believe I’ll move the mountains,” Avary proves to listeners that he is not afraid to make bold statements.
The Rocket Summer’s first single off the new album is entitled “Walls.” To no surprise, the song is uplifting and hopeful, declaring, “I’ll help you break the walls down; and bust you out and take you home; believe in me, you are not alone.”
Sometimes, Avary intentionally presents an ambiguity in his songs as to whether they have Christian meanings. However, there is no doubt that the title track of this new album was written about God. The song starts off with a soft piano, then builds up to a powerful chorus with Avary proclaiming, “Here I am dear Lord, tasting hints of fame, and I don’t want it anymore if it’s not you that I gain.” This song is an example of Avary clandestinely criticizing many artists in today’s music business. Citing an earlier song, “A Song Is Not a Business Plan” off The Rocket Summers’s 2007 release Do You Feel, Avary often writes about modern popular musicians: “This is me saying words I actually mean; I won’t compromise this thing just to make it.”
“Hills and Valleys” is a strongly piano-driven song, recounting the early days when the band traveled cross-country while living out their dream, a lyrical theme similar to The Rocket Summer’s previous tune also off Do You Feel titled “Colors.”
The interestingly named “Japanese Exchange Student” shows Avary’s ability to use light-hearted lyrics to explain a serious issue. At one time, he sings “The thrill wears off, and then I’m alone,” while later he urges “So be nice to the Japanese exchange student.” Upon first listen, the song might seem a bit depressing, talking about loneliness and not fitting in, but Avary isn’t a fan of negative vibes and by the song’s finish, listeners are left with a feel-good story.
“Tara, I’m Terrible” is a stripped-down song, with only vocals and an acoustic guitar. Lyrically, it goes off the road that Avary usually walks. Musically, it’s produced very differently from the other tracks on Of Men and Angels, as well as from his previous releases.
“Let You Go” is another piano-driven song with optimistic lyrics that affirm the relationship that Avary has with someone special. Unlike what the title suggests, Avary claims that he will not let that special someone go, and he provides more optimism and cheery words to his friend, saying, “I hope the new grass you seek is greener than the greenest green.”
At about two and a half minutes into the closing song, “Light,” the music really picks up and assumes the role of a grand finale; then, after the energetic moments, it gradually fades into a softer melody. With this conclusion, Avary has lifted us up, brought us along an inspirational journey, and slowly brought us back home.
One of the most important parts of the album isn’t even contained on the disc: It’s the cover. Avary explained how the cover art reflects the overall theme of his latest release in an interview with www.altpress.com, saying, “I wanted to illustrate a moment that showed someone leaning up against a wall pondering, perhaps focusing on the problems of life, but unbeknownst to this person, on the other side of the wall is an angel blocking so much trouble from him.” It deals with the times when life isn’t so kind to us, but there might be more to the problems that we can’t even see. He added, “You have to remain hopeful and faithful throughout trials even when it can be hard to.”
If you’ve been a fan of The Rocket Summer in the past, then you most definitely will not be disappointed with Of Men and Angels, as Avary uses a musical formula that has proven successful in the past. Sure, the new album may seem repetitive if you allow it to be, as the amount of instrumentation in each song is limited and there are frequent familiar lyrical themes; however, if you choose to look at each song as a piece of art, by itself, you’ll see that each uplifting story is a gem. These songs have their own independent value that, as is most likely Avary’s intent with his music, will make you smile.